Madness – The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Madness – The Liberty of Norton Folgate – 4/5
[Link Removed Due to Complaint]

If you told me that ‘Madness’ were to release an album a decade since their last attempt, and twice as long since their last success I’d probably grumble and assume it to be terrible; but it isn’t. In fact it’s probably the best album they’ve ever done; gone are the catchy insanity of ‘Baggy Trousers’ or ridiculous lyrics of ‘House of Fun,’ for a more mature style. With serenading melodies; it captures the essence of the East End, transporting you on a guided tour through the poor side of the city of London.

Standing at easily the longest track in their entire back catalogue, the progressive epic ska track from where the album derives its name was a risky endeavour, but ultimately paid off as their greatest strength, leaving behind the comfortable shackles of their ‘glory days’ almost three decades ago they have emerged as adult musicians, still capable of providing a fun tune to get swept up by, with the vocal talents of local Londoner Suggsy, perhaps starting to show his age, delivering a strength of lyrics that more than compensates.

With perhaps less use of brass instruments than before, they nonetheless make an appearance, emphasising certain passages beyond others and adding a touch of flair to the proceedings. The drums are consistent yet simple, and the guitars well utilised without being too prominent, and the numerous other instruments that appear feel well suited to the track at hand. Despite this, it is the vocals and piano that take the spotlight however, the latter supplying no shortage of ‘jangly’ madness tunes, everything is seamlessly woven together, each providing their own line that contributes to the end result in true jazz style.

This is an artist that has always had the issue of releasing albums with filler material, but here each track feels so carefully worked, with attention to each detail as it unfolds in an almost progressive manner, from the pop-opera of a title track to the old romantic ‘Sugar and Spice;’ the Russian toned ‘Berkenwell Polka,’ to the loud and proud ‘We Are London,’ there are addictive easy to listen to tracks here from start to finish that only improve on subsequent listens. An intellectual Madness; who’d have guessed?

Highlights: the Liberty of Norton Folgate, Clerkenwell Polka, Idiot Child, On the Town